"On your left!", Athol Estes Porter, Cedar Rapids Iowa, Cedar River, Cedar River Trail, Courtesy, Czech Village, D.O.T.S., Dr. Hata Tawil, Fireman's Carry, Glass Road, Jeff Cater, Jill, Margaret Porter, Mercy Hospital, Mount Trashmore, Parlor City, Prairie Ridge Elementary, Saint Luke's Hospital, Sixteenth Avenue Bridge, Sokol Park, Swisher Iowa, Tait Cummins Park, William Sydney Porter
The view from the bridge was pleasant but its pull was having a rushing locomotive rumble by as you stood above it on its vibrating platform. With no train in sight and no whistles blowing Sydney soon declared, “Okay, Maggie May, time to head north.”
“Okay,” she responded and started to pull out on the trail.
Frantic calls of, “On your left! On your left!” greeted them as a handful of cyclists took advantage of the trail’s downhill grade and whizzed past. Once the bikers had moved beyond the Porters one of them hollered over his shoulder, “You people need to pay attention and learn some courtesy!”
“Yeah, yeah!” Sydney hollered back before muttering to himself, “Up yours.”
Athol looked at him and arched her eyebrows. “The man is right, Margaret. We have to be careful when we’re on the trail.”
“I know,” the little girl answered, her head falling as she acknowledged her mistake. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry, sweetie,” Athol answered,” just be careful.”
“He didn’t have to be mean about it,” Maggie added under her breath.
“No, he didn’t,” Athol concurred. “But he was still right. We all have to look out for each other whether we’re riding our bikes or driving our cars. Are we ready?”
Father and daughter chorused, “Yes!” and after a quick shoulder check to make sure no one else was about to overtake them from behind the trio started down the hill and into town.
The section of trail back to where they’d started wasn’t far but it was a refreshingly steep descent. At the bottom of the slope there were three waist high steel poles in the ground that were designed to keep motor vehicles off the trail. It wasn’t a snug fit but Maggie slowed down to negotiate through the obstacle so the rest of the Porters did too. After that the trail had a slight upward tilt for a bit but then again started downward before reaching a sharp curve near the now closed landfill unofficially named Mount Trashmore.
The Porters were riding leisurely, out for some Sunday recreation. Maggie led the way, followed by Athol and Syd had tail. The parents tended to hug the far right side of the trail but the little girl, though definitely keeping right of center, was more comfortable with at least a foot or so of asphalt between her and the drop-off that bordered the Cedar River Trail. As they entered the blind curve another group of cycling enthusiasts came barrelling by them, catching Maggie off guard. The girl wobbled and gasped but managed to stay upright.
“Hey! Ass hats! Watch it!” Sydney screamed at the bikers before adding, “You okay, Maggs?”
“Yes,” she replied, continuing on without stopping. “But that wasn’t my fault!”
“No, sweetie, it wasn’t,” Ath assured her. “They shouldn’t have passed there. I’m glad you’re okay.”
The weather was perfect and the light trail traffic passed without further incidents. When they got to Sokol Park in Czech Village a short while later Maggie asked if they could stop and play on the playground equipment. “Not yet,” Sydney answered, “how about on the way home?”
“Please?” Maggie pleaded.
“Nope, not yet,” he answered.
Athol turned her head around to smile at her husband. Margaret said, “Fine!” but kept going. After crossing the Cedar River via the Sixteenth Avenue Bridge they took the trail north through town, including the glorified sidewalk between First and Fourth Avenues. Just north of J Avenue they came to another park with playground equipment and Maggie asked if they could stop here for a play break. “Absolutely,” Sydney replied. “I was going to ask if you wanted to do just that before we turned around.”
“Turn around?” Maggie asked. “Aren’t we going to Parlor City for ice cream?”
“Yeah!?” Athol joined in. “You promised!”
“Well we could, but they don’t open until eleven,” Sydney replied. “That’s almost two hours.”
“Well what about our ice cream?” Athol wanted to know.
“We’ll get some on the way home,” Syd promised.
“Fine,” Athol submitted. “But I think you may be taking that bribe versus reward thing a bit too far.”
The Porters put their bikes in the rack, took long swigs of water and removed their helmets. Athol and Sydney played with Maggie for a few minutes but when three other children arrived at the park the two adults took seats on the bench. Margaret seemed to be enjoying herself so the parents were content to sit in the sun and let their daughter play but when the trio had to go Athol called out to Maggie, “You ready to head home?”
“Yes,” Margaret replied, “but don’t forget the ice cream!”
“We won’t forget,” Sydney answered. “Everyone have enough water?”
“Yes, let’s go,” Maggie answered and the Porters retraced their six mile route in reverse.
Even though the day was cool and the pace had been leisurely the distance was a bit of a stretch for a nine year old. Maggie soldiered on and the family rode without incidence until they again returned to the fast, blind curve that went around Mount Trashmore.
The landfill that had been Mount Trashmore was fenced in and the fence was fairly close to the trail’s edge when traveling southbound. Maggie still had point and was still riding closer to the trail’s center than its edge when she made her sweeping left. Though she was skirting the middle of the trail the rag tag group of opposite bound bike riders that came flying around the turn filled both the northbound lane as well as much of the southbound. Presented with being struck by a group of teen riders or crashing into the fence Maggie turned her bike toward the fence which quickly caught her handlebar in its chain-links, sending her sprawling.
One of the boys screamed, “Lookout!” as his pack ventured on but none of the riders perceptibly slowed, let alone stopped.
“Jesus Christ!” screamed Sydney to the fast receding oblivious Neanderthals who had forced his daughter off the trail and caused her wreck. “Get the hell off the trail!”
Athol and Sydney stopped and thrust their bikes toward the chain link fence and ran to their daughter. Upon snagging her handlebar Maggie’s bike had tumbled over and thrown her against the links before slamming her to the ground where she now screamed as she lay awkwardly. “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!” Athol recited. “Maggie! Maggie! Are you alright?”
Sydney rushed to his daughter’s side and knelt beside her. “Maggie? Maggie? Talk to us. Is anything broken?”
Maggie’s only answer was more screaming but from behind them they heard, “Do you need some help? I’m a doctor,” delivered in a perfectly enunciated but slightly sing-song voice.
Sydney spun around, eyes wide and fists clenched. The thin, brown skinned man standing behind him wore a white helmet and shoes and was dressed in a green cycling Jersey with matching shorts and gloves. “I saw what happened. It was terrible what those boys did but, as I said, I am a doctor. May I look at your daughter?”
Athol’s and Sydney’s heads spun towards one another and Athol said, “Yes. Her name is Margaret.”
“Okay. I am Hata Tawil. I am an ER doctor. Margaret? My name is Doctor Tawil. I want to see how badly you are injured; alright?”
“Y, y, yes,” she managed to say between gasps of pain. “My leg and wrist hurt a lot.”
“I don’t doubt it. You hit the ground very, very hard. Mother, will you make sure no one else hits us while I am looking at your daughter?” he asked Athol.
“Yes, of course. My name is Athol and this is my husband, Sydney. We were almost back to our truck when this happened,” she replied as she looked up from her daughter and monitored the trail for oncoming cyclists.
“Pleased to meet you,” Tawil intoned. “Let’s see how Margaret is doing. Margaret, first I want to look at your eyes and then I’m going to check your pulse. I know you hurt a lot right now but I want to make sure of is that we don’t need to call an ambulance,” he said, looking her in the eye and then gently taking her wrist while consulting his watch. “Okay, your heart is beating pretty fast but it is strong and steady. I think we can take your helmet off so you’ll be more comfortable,” he said unbuckling her Bell and laying it on the grass. “Very smart of you to wear it. Now I’m going to check your legs to make sure they are not broken.”
Doctor Tawil continued his examination and after delicately checking for obvious broken bones or trauma he asked Maggie to open and close her fist. “That looks pretty good,” he reassured. “I know that hitting the fence and ground was pretty painful but you seem much better now. Do you think that you are well enough to sit up?”
“I think so,” the little girl answered.
“Okay then, nice and slowly. If you feel dizzy we’ll just lie you back down; okay?”
A pair of female cyclists riding southward slowed and then stopped when Athol frantically waved her hands up and down. “Are you alright?” one of the women asked.
“I think so,” Athol replied. “Some idiots forced my daughter off the trail and she hit hard but luckily this doctor stopped to help. I didn’t mean to make you stop. I just wanted you to slow down is all.”
“Oh, that’s awful,” the other woman added. “Can we help?”
“Maybe,” said Dr. Tawil. “Mother, you said that you are parked nearby?”
“Yes,” Sydney said. “Just down the trail. We parked our truck at Tait Cummin.”
“Tait Cummin? Oh, yes! The ball park. Well, Margaret, if you are feeling okay I bet your father and I could carry you to your truck. You seem okay but I don’t want you to ride your bicycle anymore until we get you to a doctor’s office. But if you are feeling up to it we can take you to your truck so that we don’t have to call an ambulance. What do you say? Would you like to try?”
“I, I think so. I think I could probably ride; it isn’t very far.”
Tawil, Sydney and Athol all responded immediately that she would not be riding anymore that day. Maggie sat up slowly and after resting for a few minutes Dr. Tawil asked how she was feeling.
“Pretty good. I think you and Daddy can carry me.”
“Okay. Very good. You are a very brave little girl, aren’t you? Papa, are you ready to carry her? You know what a fireman’s carry is?”
In response Sydney thrust out his left arm and then grabbed that forearm right below the elbow with his right hand. “Like this, right, Doc? And you can call me Sydney.”
“Okay, Sydney, very good. Ladies, if I help Margaret to her feet can you steady her while Sydney and I put her in the carry?”
The two woman looked at each other and then shrugging the woman who had spoken first said, “Sure, I guess so.”
“Excellent. Okay then, get ready, Sydney. Margaret, let’s see how well you do standing, shall we?”
Tawil helped Maggie to her feet and after a few seconds asked, “Feeling okay?” When she nodded her consent he added, “Okay, ladies, hold her steady. Sydney, let’s make a nice chair for your…. Oh, wait!” he shouted and then reached down, removed his cycling shoes and threw them next to his bicycle. “Those are terrible for walking in. Alright, ready now,” he said, taking Sydney’s outstretched arm and completing the fireman’s carry. “Alright, Margaret, here we go,” and Maggie slumped into his and her father’s waiting arms.
They started walking and the three women looked at one another. The second stranger said, “If you want to walk down with them we can wait here with the bikes. I know nobody’s going to steal them but that doctor fellow’s looks awfully expensive.”
“Thank you,” Athol said, gathering Maggie’s bike and helmet. “Thank you so much. We’ll be right back.”
The walk to the truck wasn’t very far and Maggie wasn’t very heavy. The two men carried her with ease and as they walked Dr. Tawil asked how far they had gone, where they lived, what school Margaret attended and what Sydney and Athol did for a living. The four conversed as though carrying a child down the trail was something they did daily. Hata Tawil confided that he had come to the United States from Iran to attend college. “That was in August of 1979. Naturally I have never been back. America is my home now.”
Getting Maggie in the cab was easy and Sydney put her bike in the bed. “I think she is fine but you really should take her to a doctor; preferably today. Her pupils are not dilated but she could still have received a head injury. Even though I think she is fine it is always better to be safe. You have a very brave little girl there. Also, if you would be so kind as to leave me a message on how she is doing? You can call the hospital and they’ll put you through to my voicemail.”
“We will, Doctor,” Sydney said. “You’re at Saint Luke’s?”
“Saint Luke’s? No, I work at Mercy. Do you know Dr. Cater? He is an ER doctor at Saint Luke’s.”
“Dr. Cater? No, I don’t think so,” Athol said. “We haven’t used the emergency room much; knock on wood.”
“Dr. Cater is quite good, give him my regards.”
Athol hugged Dr. Tawil. “Thank you, Doctor, and bless you. We’ll be sure to call Mercy and let you know. Maggie! Say thank you to Dr. Tawil!”
Maggie leaned toward the open door, “Thank you, Dr. Tawil! I’ll never forget you!”
“You are very welcome. You take care of yourself; you hear?”
“Sydney, how are you going to get the bikes down?” Athol asked.
“I’ll just walk ’em down. Won’t take me but five minutes. You stay with Maggie; okay?”
They embraced and Sydney called out to Maggie, “Be right back, sport!” and headed up the trail with Dr. Tawil.
“You said that you work at Tyson’s, right? The one by Collins Road?” Tawil asked.
“Yes, that’s right. You know where it is?”
“Certainly. I shop there sometimes. I live off of Glass.”
“Oh, sure! I’m in Swisher.”
“I thought you must live near there when Margaret said she goes to Prairie Ridge Elementary. Do you call her Margaret or Maggie?”
“Both, it just depends.”
The two women stood next to the bikes leaning against the chain-link fence. “Thanks again for helping, ladies,” Sydney said, extending his hand to one woman and then the other. “You were a lot of help.”
“Oh, you’re welcome. Best of luck to your little girl. Goodbye, Doctor. You did a good thing here,” she said as she swung a leg over her bike. “Ready, Jill?”
“I’m ready,” Jill answered. “Good luck!” she called out as they continued southward.
“They seem like very nice women,” Hata said of their receding forms. “I cannot say how open I find Americans in the Midwest to be. This is a lovely part of the country. Well,” he added, extending his hand, “perhaps I will see you at work; yours, not mine! Please let me know how Maggie is, okay:”
“Will do, Doc. And thanks again.”